Whether you want to immortalize a bouquet from a meaningful occasion, or just pay homage to Dead or Alive’s Nude album cover (let’s be honest, for me it’s a little bit of both..) creating a dried flower shadow box display is a brilliant way to turn something tragically temporary (i.e. flowers) into permanent decor.
There are lots of ways to preserve flowers: hanging them, drying them, pressing them, forgetting about them and leaving them in the vase until they shrivel up and start to smell like that jar of peanut satay sauce in the back of the pantry that you completely forgot about until it grew a thick carpet of grey mold…
While I’ve (shamefully) dabbled in all aforementioned methods, my favorite way to preserve flowers is drying the buds, then arranging them in a shadow box display.
I created this one a couple of years ago using the roses R gifted me for our first Valentine’s day together (and I amazingly had the presence of mind at the time to snap pictures of the entire process!) Here’s how I did it.
- A bouquet of roses from my favorite man on this earth
- A front-hinged shadow box (I got mine from Hobby Lobby)
- Dressmaker pins (like these)
Step One: Dry the Flowers
There are a lot of methods for drying flowers, and the best approach will vary depending on the type of flowers you’re working with. In my personal experience, I’ve found that roses are almost impossible to screw up… it’s like they want to be beautiful forever, and are going to self-preserve regardless of whatever you do to thwart them.
Perhaps the most common method for drying roses is to hang them upside down in a dark space. The downside (at least in my experience) is that this method seems to shrink / close up the heads. Since I wanted to retain the open and full shape of the rose heads, I decided to dry them upright instead. I just clipped the buds a few inches down the stem and arranged them in a box (which I then stored in a dark closet).
If color preservation is important to you, try drying your flowers with silica gel. Though I didn’t use it for this project (I personally like the yellowed look of dried roses), this is a “must” for flowers that brown more dramatically when they dry.
Once my rose heads were dry, I clipped the remaining bit of stem and removed any green bits around the head.
Step Two: Plan the Arrangement Pattern
Very carefully (to avoid petal carnage), I tentatively arranged my roses in the shadow box, moving them around until I was happy with the pattern / distribution of colors.
This is an important step if there’s a lot of color / size variety in your flowers, and it’s also a good way to make sure you’ll have enough to fill your box.
Step Three: Pin
Once I was happy with my arrangement, I began to anchor the rose heads in place using the smallest dressmaker pins I could find (the smaller the pinhead, the easier it is to hide!)
By sneaking the pins very carefully through the layers of petals, I was able to secure the roses to the back of the shadow box, while at the same time gently spreading the rose open just a tiny bit more.
Remember, the key words here are “very carefully.”
Step Four: Final Touches
Once everything was securely pinned in place, I used some baby’s-breath as an accent (and to fill in any visible gaps between roses!)
I also tucked a few silica gel packets (just the kind that you find in a shoe box) along the edges of the shadow box to combat any moisture or humidity that might creep in over time.
The roses continued to yellow slightly for the first few months, before settling on their current shade.
This lad has moved around quite a bit, and I’ve always made an effort to display this him away from direct sunlight or overly-moist locales. He’s currently hanging out in our powder room, but eventually I’d like to build him into a gallery wall in our downstairs office (where he’ll have the place of prominence he deserves!)
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